Challenging los Chilenos: Copa America 2019

Zososoxfan

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Copa America 2019 starts tonight with Brazil vs. Bolivia. The tournament is being held in Brazil, in a much smaller geography than WC 14 (Sao Paolo, Rio, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, and Salvador). CONMEBOL's 10 teams plus invitees Japan and Qatar will be in 3 groups of 4 for a round robin, with the top 2 from each group plus 2/3 3rd place finishers based on points (and goal differential if tied on points) moving on to the quarterfinals for a single leg knockout.

Group A
Brazil
Bolivia
Peru
Venezuela

Group B
Argentina
Colombia
Paraguay
Qatar

Group C
Chile
Ecuador
Japan
Uruguay

Chile come in as 2-time defending champs (both times over Argentina in penalties) while Brazil hasn't even made the semis (!) since winning the tournament in 2007. Uruguay won it in 2011, Colombia won it in 2001, and Argentina won it in 1993 (sigh). No other nation has won the tournament since Paraguay in '79! Uruguay has the most titles all time with 15, Argentina's second with 14, and Brazil's third with 8.

For those of you who really love the sport, CA is a really interesting tournament to watch for comparison purposes. The South American game is SIGNIFICANTLY more physical than its European counterpart and more similar to CONCACAF THUNDER, but with skill. Most of these teams are organized and well-drilled, making even absurdly talented squads like Brazil fight like hell for their results. Every time this tournament rolls around several South American-based players show well and get snapped up by European clubs, so there is definitely some scouting to be done.

Brazil come in as HEAVY favorites (-500) with Argentina a distant second (-100) and Uruguay third (+100). Tite is one of the better international managers and he has a ridiculous squad to choose from, although Neymar is out in part due to injury and in part due to his legal troubles. Nevertheless, Gabi Jesus, Firmino, Neres, and Richarlison highlight the front line (is Firmino healthy?), Willian, Coutinho, Arthur, Fernandinho, Casemiro, and Allan is an embarrassingly talented MF, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Felipe Luis, Alex Sandro, and Dani Alves is a talented and experienced defense, and the GK position is stacked with Alisson and Ederson. Anything less than a title would be an ENORMOUS upset. Will be interesting to see if Coutinho looks any better for the NT than he did at Barca. He was objectively bad at Barca this season. Gabi Jesus, Willian, and Arthur are likely looking to impress after good but not great (for their lofty standards) seasons. Neres and Richarlison may look even better playing along side world class players, if they get to see enough of the field.

Argentina have steadied the ever-rocking national team boat with the stewardship of Scaloni. He has brought in many domestic-based players, has a coherent pressing-philosophy, and has earned Messi's approval. He has built the team around the best players and gives this team a chance. Messi and Aguero lead the front line, along with Lautaro Martinez and Dybala waiting in the wings. Scaloni has intelligently realized that the MF needs to be built around Leandro Paredes (PSG) and Lo Celso (Betis) who are both gifted passers. Lo Celso in particular has the potential to be one of the sport's premier #10s. It appears that Di Maria will get the opportunity on one wing with Acuna and Roberto Pereyra competing for the other MF spot. Also keep an eye on De Paul who has shown flashes of being a real impact player. The defense is good but does not have any top end talent. In the middle there is lots of competition between Foyth, Funes Mori, Pezzella, and Otamendi. The FBs do seem settled with very solid players Tagliafico and Saravia. Armani is slightly less good than I'd hope for the national team, but he won't cost the team matches while not bailing them out either. A good showing at CA (semis or better with coherent tactics) will make it hard for AFA to replace Scaloni and would bode well for the team's development heading into WCQ.

Uruguay is the team to watch if you want to scout young talent. Maxi Gomez is going to be the next hot young striker desired by mega clubs next summer, Torreira got off to a torrid start at Arsenal before falling off later in the season, Betancur is getting real minutes at Juve at 21, Laxalt and Jimenez have been excellent fitting into Uruguay's always stout defense and there are other young players that should see time for the Celestes. Tabarez is a legendary coach and I don't think there's another country that plays more passionately than Uruguay. Cavani, Suarez, and Godin are still there and will be positives.

Colombia also bring a ton of talent and round out the teams I think have a realistic shot to win the thing. Quieroz has come in and raised expectations for the team, and with names like James, Cuadrado, Muriel along with a very stout backline, Colombia can do some damage. The CB pairing of Sanchez and Mina is tied with Uruguay for best in the tourney although lacking the same depth. James will have to get back to playing like the Galactico he was 3-5 years ago for the whole thing to work well, but Colombia are ready for this tournament. Argentina-Colombia may be the best match of the group phase and is tomorrow night!

Chile also have decent betting odds, but this golden generation has likely run its course. Vargas, Sanchez, Aranguiz, Vidal, Medel, Beausejour, and Isla are all on the wrong side of 30 and the guys who've come in behind them are not that impressive.

Other big names in the tourney include Rondon (Venezuela, Newcastle), Advincula (Peru, Rayo Vallecano), and Almiron (Paraguay, Newcastle).
 
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coremiller

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Brazil's first-choice defense is really old. Thiago Silva is 34, Dani Alves is 36, Filipe Luis is 33. I wonder how well those geezers will hold up playing every four days.
 

DrewDawg

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Brazil converts a PK after a VAR overturn---1-0 over Bolivia in 52nd minute.
 

DrewDawg

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And another! Coutinho again on a header 2 minutes after his first.

EDIT: And if you turn it on and don't pay attention (like me) Brazil is not wearing green, Bolivia is. Which is obvious after looking at screen with more than passing glance, but at first I was confused.
 

InstaFace

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I was confused at first too.

I only tuned in for the second half, caught the first two goals, dozed off for a bit, and woke up when they subbed Everton on. Watched him for a few minutes, including his absolute rocket of a golazo. That ball was still rising as it hit the inside of the side netting. Anyway, pretty happy with how that turned out.
 

DrewDawg

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Someone on Colombia just fired an absolute rocket into the Argentina net. Wow.
 

PedroSpecialK

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It is bittersweet to see Queiroz making another group play above their talent level... Colombia made a really astute hire

Can't complain with Marc Wilmots given Iran's status with sanctions, but it feels like the door's been shut on a potential golden age for Iranian football
 

OilCanShotTupac

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That pass, that settle, the beat and the rocket ship golazo. Copa America is the best.
This tournament is incredible. I enjoy this, Euro, and AFCON (to the extent you can follow it) as much or more than WC.

Shame that CONCACAF is so lopsided with a handful of big countries and 60 minnows. Makes for a crappy Gold Cup. Although to be fair the lesser sides on CONCACAF are getting better.
 

InstaFace

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This tournament is incredible. I enjoy this, Euro, and AFCON (to the extent you can follow it) as much or more than WC.

Shame that CONCACAF is so lopsided with a handful of big countries and 60 minnows. Makes for a crappy Gold Cup. Although to be fair the lesser sides on CONCACAF are getting better.
We need to have a cricket-style "West Indies" meta-team. Or several. But definitely not the current situation. Wouldn't happen because it would reduce the opportunities for corruption, but that could be pretty fun, could even end up with a "domestic league" that is essentially made up of each island's all-star team.
 

OilCanShotTupac

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We need to have a cricket-style "West Indies" meta-team. Or several. But definitely not the current situation. Wouldn't happen because it would reduce the opportunities for corruption, but that could be pretty fun, could even end up with a "domestic league" that is essentially made up of each island's all-star team.
That would be excellent. Same for Oceania.
 

InstaFace

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I did not realize that Qatar was ranked #27 in the world by Elo Ratings, 12 spots ahead of the USA, just ahead of Russia, having won the Asian Cup earlier this year. 4 AFC teams are right there in the rankings: Iran #22, S. Korea #25, Japan #26, Qatar #27. Long way down before you get to the next AFC team (Australia, #48), but that's way better than I thought for a small arabian-gulf country.

I guess buying international players using citizenships has its rewards.
 
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Zososoxfan

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Uruguay up 3-0 on Ecuador at half. It hasn't been that close.
Uruguay and Colombia showing very well in the first round. Japan makes for a super interesting invite. I hope they show that they are here to challenge. Today's match against Chile is a perfect litmus test. If Japan shows well, Uruguay vs. Japan also becomes interesting. Other than that, the big questions going into the 2nd round of group games are can Argentina pull their heads out of their collective ass, can Brazil play up to their own talent level, and can Uruguay and Colombia continue their hot starts. Obviously the points will matter and shape the storylines heading into matchday 3.
 

Zososoxfan

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International football is so cut throat. The tiniest change can go wrong and you lose all balance. Everything was ok the first half except juan cuadrado was able to physically beat di maria into the space left in the middle because of the width in the argentina 442. Fideo was just unable to stand his man up leaving cuadrado with room to overrun parades and guido causing both of them to commit to technical fouls and yellow cards (for guido which proved crucial later) to catch up.

However that is fine as the scoreline was balanced. All scaloni needed to do to adjust was insert dePaul in the same framework. Many people commented this and we were happy to see this as second half opened. The effectiveness of this was obvious straight away. In the opening thirty seconds, cuadrado received the ball in an area he had dominated the whole first half but this time DePaul challenged and poked the ball free leading to a break for argentina. If Paredes was accurate by 1 meter for his shot in the end we would have been up in 45 seconds of second half.


If that was all the change Scaloni had made we would probably have been ok. However there was one more tiny thing he did at the half. He moved his back line up by 5 meters to better challenge and press for the ball (proof below). He also left parades with instruction to push higher for the ball and to move into the space in front. We saw this play out with leandro moving to a bit more advanced positions in the second half when team was in possession..


For twenty minutes Carlos Quieroz struggled to adjust to this but he showed why he is a superior coach and the huge disadvantage Scaloni has. First, once the tactical advantage of Cuadrado was lost he inserted jefferson lerma to stop the bleeding in the middle. Then James was pulled back just a bit and given room to try and hit the space behind the slightly advanced argentine line now and he was able to find Martinez on the wing with room. While Saravia will be blamed for this any half decent dribbler has an advantage over a full back one on one when he has 10 meters to run at him and another 10 meters behind him.

Here you will see two comparisons. The argentine back line at minute 20 about 20 meters from the center line (the patches on the grass tell you distance). In the second image you will see the argentine lines just a little bit more advanced, 15 meters from the half and attacking the ball just before James unleashes for the goal.

This is the tiny difference in modern football. Scaloni showed his cards too early and Carlos Queroz the old fox hit him back. Hard to blame a person trying his best on the job especially when no one else wanted or actually still wants the job. Anyways all is not lost. Still first game and we can make it through. Please Scaloni forget about the nonsense of beautiful football everyone gets on.I will say again, the most important thing in modern international knockout tournament play is structure and tightness first. Being able to keep everything IN FRONT of you. Remember how in the messi, aguero and scaloni interviews all mentioned the importance of taking space away. The only thing i said was PLEASE DO NOT FORGET THAT when game starts. You forgot that.
 

Zososoxfan

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Sorry for the formatting in my previous post - the post above is from another user on an Argentina NT message board with horrific UI and (presumably) back-end coding.

I'm impressed that someone watching a match like that can pick out the difference of a defensive line moving 5m. I happen to think that the Di Maria and Rodriguez selections really bit Argentina more than tactics. Like the poster mentioned, ADM was brutal and I don't understand how he was the choice at RM. I dislike Acuna but he at least is a willing runner who gives the squad balance and a high workrate. De Paul was obviously much better than ADM and is better in attack than Acuna. For that reason, I expect him to start next match.

I assume Rodriguez was put next to Paredes to be a swiss army knife MF to give balance to the team and let everyone else be where they needed to. However in practice, this reminded me far too much of having Biglia play next to Masche in the WC - i.e. in a choppy international competition where the opponents are expected to sit back, one pivot with limited abilities going forward is enough. I expect Pereyra will get a good look for the next match since he gives some defensive help but offers more going forward.

Perhaps if Argentina had a RB known for going forward it would've made more sense, but Saravia is a bit slower and Colombia's danger was attacking in behind him. I've read that Casco may replace Saravia in the XI, but I actually wouldn't mind him getting another chance against a defensive setup.

Scaloni's other puzzling move was basing GLC high on the RW. While I can understand wanting to anchor a player in this position create width for Messi, that limited GLC's dynamism and made Argentina more static. GLC's strength is playing through the middle and connecting MF to FW. However, credit should be given to Colombia for playing tough and compact. There wasn't much space between the lines and they are a good team.

Hopefully can learn quickly on the job and Argentina look much better on Wednesday going up against Paraguay.
 

Zososoxfan

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Just read a scathing criticism of CA on Deadspin, and while I disagree with a lot of it, the criticism of the Group Stage is fair. CONMEBOL is weird for having a wide talent disparity despite only having 10 teams. Yet, having this mostly inconsequential and awkward 3-group 12-team group stage with 8 teams qualifying for a QF really chaps my ass for some reason. It seems silly to go through the grind of a 3-match group stage to only eliminate 25% of the field, even more so when 2/4 eliminated group stage teams could be b-squad invitees.

I would suggest that having 2 5-team groups play a round robin with 6 teams qualifying for knockouts (similar to an NFL conference playoff) is a vastly superior format. Each group winner would have a bye into the semis and the runner-up of each group would have a "QF" matchup against the third place team from the other group.

QF 1: Group 1 Runner Up vs. Group 2 3rd Place

QF 2: Group 2 Runner Up vs. Group 1 3rd Place

Semifinal 1: Group 2 Winner vs. QF 1 Winner (teams finishing 1st and 2nd from same group can't meet again until finals)

Semifinal 2: Group 1 Winner vs. QF 2 Winner

Under the current format, the eventual winner will play 6 total matches--3 group matches and 3 knockout matches. Using the proposed format, the maximum would be 7 matches if a non-group winner reaches the final (6 if a group winner reaches the final). Each team is guaranteed 4 matches instead of 3. It sounds minor, but having 6/10 (or even better, 4/10) advance instead of 8/12 is a huge difference. While 4/10 advancing likely rewards the best teams more accurately, it leaves too many late group matches without consequence and thus, not feasible.

Since a 5-team group requires more idle time, CONMEBOL could keep the 2 invitee teams and make them 6-team groups with the same knockout-qualification easily. However, that does result in a lot more matches since every team would be guaranteed 5 group stage matches. So, that likely only works if 4 teams qualify for a knockout, and that has the same problem mentioned above of having too many late group stage matches rendered inconsequential.

Is there another format that would make more sense?
 
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InstaFace

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Japan makes for a super interesting invite. I hope they show that they are here to challenge. Today's match against Chile is a perfect litmus test. If Japan shows well, Uruguay vs. Japan also becomes interesting.
Well, so much for that...
 

Kliq

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The combination of intense, out of control challenges and epic diving should be a turn off, but this is intoxicating soccer.
 

Dernells Casket n Flagon

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Anyone else wish that for the Telemundo and Univision that the SAP button would provide a broadcast in English?

Hate that this is relegated to ESPN+.
 

Zososoxfan

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Venezuela holding Brazil to a draw is a huge result for that group. I also think it shows just how difficult and disjointed the international game has become for CONMEBOL teams. Brazil's squad is absolutely stacked, but they just can't seem to find the right combination of players to unlock stout defenses. I didn't get to watch the whole match, but Coutinho seems to be struggling for the Selecao as much as Barca. Neres is getting lots of PT, but isn't making it count. I was surprised that Tite didn't give Willian some run. There's really no one better on the team at beating a man in space and creating chances out of nothing. The international game is just a different beast at this point.

Tonight, Colombia looks to build on its hot start against Qatar and Argentina look to right the ship against Paraguay. Rumor has it that Lautaro Martinez will start instead of Aguero, De Paul in for ADM, and Pereyra in for Rodriguez. That is pretty close to my ideal lineup. I'd rather have Foyth or Funes Mori instead of Otamendi, but this is a match that is about the attack, and not the defense as much. It's still puzzling to me why Angel Correa, Lamela, and Joaquin Correa aren't on this squad.

Interestingly, Hernan Crespo (now the manager at Argentina club Banfield) went on blast and said it is difficult for Argentina to defend coherently when Messi and Aguero offer nothing in defense. There's some truth to that. Messi is allowed to walk on defense because he's the greatest player ever, but having two players contribute little effort in pressing a defense makes the mids and defense work a lot harder. Suarez works his tail off for Barca and it covers a lot for Messi, but Aguero clearly isn't going to do that. Lautaro seems like a good bet to do more pressing and De Paul, GLC, and Pereyra put some serious workrate around Messi in the attacking half of the field. De Paul and Lautaro in particular are going to have to make runs ahead of Messi tonight to create space. Hopefully GLC plays more centrally as well where he can be at his best.
 

OilCanShotTupac

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Not beating Paraguay is sad. As much as I love Iceland, drawing Iceland in the WC is sad. Suddenly I don't feel so bad about the USMNT.
 

Kliq

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After seeing a million replays, I'm still not sure that was a handball on Paraguay.

If Argentina drops points to Qatar...
 

Zososoxfan

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Argentina were just dreadful last night. Despite picking the best XI or close to it (whither Dybala), the team seemed just as disjointed and confused last night as last week, or the WC. At this point, I think it may just be better for everyone involved if Messi retired from the NT to spare himself the frustration of playing for such a dysfunctional organization like AFA. His presence places misplaced expectations on a team and somewhat forces them to play an aggressive attacking style that they are clearly not suited for. AFA need to install a stodgy experienced international manager and give him a full cycle to try and get out of this mess.
 

Vinho Tinto

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Messi, the team captain, should avoid playing for Argentina because their lack of succes makes him look bad. That’s what marks a true leader. They quit and go out of their way to not change the status quo.
 

Vinho Tinto

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I'm as serious as the thought that Messi should retire for the benefit of himself and the national team.

EDIT: And I agree that Argentina was terrible. Their one good attack led to the penalty. Otherwise, it was 90+ minutes of tepid charges. Their midfield and Otamendi were a calamity.
 

coremiller

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I think it's pretty clear that Messi, for all the brilliance of his play, is not a great captain/leader. Barcelona's continued Champions League collapses don't reflect well on his captaincy either.
 

InstaFace

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If you don't win everything, all the time, as an individual in a team sport, it reflects poorly on you.

It's just too bad the other guys get paid and put together a roster too.
 

coremiller

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If you don't win everything, all the time, as an individual in a team sport, it reflects poorly on you.

It's just too bad the other guys get paid and put together a roster too.
Argentina has done a little worse than win everything, all the time. And the Barcelona issue is not that they've lost, but the way they've lost.
 

InstaFace

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Right, why didn't Messi stop those extremely well-funded Liverpool and Roma teams from beating his defense? What a loser.

Path dependence strikes again. Give up goals first, and score them later, and you've achieved (or nearly achieved) a glorious comeback. Score goals first, and give them up later, and you're a choking loser who chokes and loses. (regardless, it seems, of how many times you've won before and thus proven otherwise - what have you done for me lately?) So many intelligent people seem to be prisoners of the idea that things can't possibly be random, therefore all fault lies with the players' character (or similar).
 

Vinho Tinto

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Messi has played on a club that is on the very shortest of lists for richest in the world. Rarely has that been pointed out when he is receiving high fives and collecting trophies. Not sure why Roma and LFC’s finances matter.

Those comebacks aren’t a sign of a character flaw for him, but it works both ways because he is one of the few megastars who doesn’t get much blame when the team fails. It’s always due to management, coaching, teammates, or fans who don’t understand what they are actually seeing.